|Courtesy of Palaon Photography|
Jennifer Linch: Hi Lee! Thank you so much for talking to me. The past year has been a blessing for Sunshine Pictures and its projects. We are grateful to have the international film community supporting Flowers of The Night.
JL: My whole life has always been connected deeply to movies. My parents were very poor so the only fun thing they could afford was to rent pirated movies for us to watch. In Vietnam back then, we didn’t have original copies, only pirated copies! [laughs] The films were blurry and I could barely hear sometimes but it didn’t matter. We all had fun and I loved our family time together.
Sometimes, when it rained for days, my parents couldn’t do much for the noodle house, so we just stayed in and watched so many movies and ate really cheap food. The noodle house always did bad when it rained so they could only feed us lots of veggies, rice and boiled eggs with soy sauce but good movies made up for everything. Most of the time, I didn’t care much about dinner but about what we were going to watch.
My mom was very strict and didn’t allow me to go out or anything so I stayed home and read martial arts books and watched as many action/martial arts films as possible after homework and chores. I often daydreamed about my own movies and my own stories when I had to listen to those boring chemistry lessons in school. In fact, The Dream idea was started back then when I was daydreaming in 10th grade; How the siren of The Dream turned around and looked at the main character was thought of back then. What can I say? That class was so boring! [laughs] And The Dream won 2 awards as my very first film ever made.
On April 4, 2014 , I created Sunshine Pictures Productions (named after my beloved kitty Sunshine) and started production of Malevolence, The Dream , Forbidden Forest and Flowers of The Night with the help of many director friends in the industry in Hollywood. They are all good, honest friends with great passion for art; They all gave me extremely valuable feedback and I just absorbed it like a sponge, which was how I was able to improve the quality of my films so quickly.
When I first started, I had to handle so many different responsibilities to get the projects off the ground and to prove myself first. So when The Dream came out, talented people saw my potential and came in to help me. And that was how Flowers of The Night won so many awards internationally in last year and continues to be nominated in 2016.
JL: The Return Of The Condor Heroes! The author, Jin Yong is one of my favorite influences for martial arts books and films, and his works are extremely addictive! In film, I would also list any number of Jackie Chan films, as well as The Matrix 1 & 2, Zack Snyder’s 300 (2006), Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, Iron Will, Inglorious Bastards and Hanibal Rising.
Specifically with filmmaker, I would say Christopher Nolan for storytelling and character development, J.J. Abrams for rhythm of an action film, guys Quentin Tarantino and James Cameron for the passion, Lee Jung-Beom’s for the way he sets up drama in The Man from Nowhere (2010) and No Tears for the Dead (2014), and Gareth Evans for his estudious cinematography and editing of martial arts acton.
I’ve also enjoyed Mads Mikkelsen’s performance as Hannibal on television, and I don’t really read comic books with the exception of Doraemon which I enjoy a lot.
JL: Originally the short film was strictly to practice my action camera movement, but when the project started, it grew a soul of its own. I took some B-roll footage from Malevolence and put it together and it became Flowers of The Night.
The shortfilm itself is actually just one scene culminating concepts for its script as well as its sequel, Petals in The Wind scripts. Beginning with Flowers Of The Night, the film will showcase journey of our lead character, Lily, and her upbringing from childhood to anti-heroine and the ultimate protector of the children and the world the film is set in. Heartbreak, epic drama and story scope, hardcore violence and bloody action – You name it! We have it for you!
JL: I practice martial arts with my trainer every week for flexibility and strength. For the feature film, we will have from six-to-eight hours of training in the course of three months prior to principal photography since the fights are complicated and we don’t speed up footage or use wires. Plus, Lily’s style is different with my Karate and Muay Thai training, and so I will have 3 different coaches to train me on Machete fighting, Jiujitsu, Silat and Muay Thai.
JL: Old school way is a reference to how tough the teachers. They don’t care if you are hurt but will keep pushing you. I used to have Karate classes in the field where they dried rice. The ground was tough and we were barefoot, and even if it rained a little, we still kept going.
My brother was a martial teacher. He had a few black belts in different styles, and so whenever I went home with bruises after sparring, he gave me a look of disappointment, and then some Chinese wine medicine before saying something to the effect of: “God, why are you so weak!?!” or “Don’t tell people you are my little sister!”
Old school way comes with a serving of tough love for good measure.
JL: Each minute of my day accounts for every role that I am responsible for. I am on a VERY tight schedule and gave up going out a long time ago. Since approximately on August 8, 2013, all of my personal time is devoted to growing Sunshine Pictures as much and as steadily and fruitfully as possible.
JL: [laughs] Thanks! The fight scenes are the collection of memories of years upon years of watching action/martial arts films in conjunction with my own creative drive for a new exciting style – A Jennifer Linch style.
JL: A Jennifer Linch style is the combination of extreme violence in accordance with brutal and honest fighting movements and techniques from Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea, but peppered with a Hollywood blockbuster-esque fast paced rhythm. The dramatic and emotional setup for the fight scenes are influenced from the style of these directors I mentioned earlier, but will have the extreme sexiness to identify the Jennifer Linch style. Plus, I know martial arts so I can design those fight scenes easily.
As for dramatic and romantic moments, it will be a touch of eastern drama normalized to match western culture so we can open up to all audience types and different cultures in the world.
JL: Personally, I HATE shaky-cam! Whoever invented shaky-cam, I want to invite that person to a sparring session in a cage with no rules! [laughs] Action in an action film plays an important component of storytelling. It should be clean and clear so I, as the viewer, can see it.
That said, for some films or for a certain style it does work; If you want to introduce an element of danger and excitement then a little bit of shakiness will work if it is mindfully applied. But to have the camera so shaky like in Taken 2 and Taken 3, thanks but no thanks, I’d like my money back! [laughs] Again, just reiterating these as per my own personal taste.
JL: Hands down, my favorite fight scene is the fight between Iko Uwais, Donny Alamsyah and Yayan Ruhian in The Raid.
JL: Fernando is a great fight choreographer. He’s professional, punctual and carries a great work ethic.
|From L to R: Jennifer Linch, Director Of Photography Michael Foster and Tim Neff (Sunshine Pictures – 2015)|
In casting the character, Mathew Thompson, the performer I originally had in mind was actor and martial artist DeVille Van Niekerk who happned to be, and to this day, working in Cape Town on the HBO series, Black Sails. He then referred me to Tim Neff and as I was also reviewing MANY reels for the role, Tim stood out the most because of his determined and strong attitude. When I asked if he was okay with doing his own stunts, he simply answered, “Yeah, whatever you need!”.
Tim showed up extra days to practice the fight and to rehearse the scene even though he didn’t have to. The emotional connection was the result of how we connected for the roles.
JL: Yes. We are halfway done with the casting from the crop of martial artists we handpicked from around the world, as well as specific Hollywood A-listers, but we are not able to release the names at the moment
JL: To produce short films is easy – To produce feature film is to enter a whole different level of challenges. As a producer, you need to put away your director and writer hats and just focus on the business aspect of the industry. The film industry, after all, is still an industry, and the focus is on how to make profits for the investors or studios if you want to sustain as a director. No one is willing to risk their hard earned cash just so you can enjoy making your art.
It has been seven months since I started the script and the film package to present to our executive producers, and it is not as simple as just receiving the funding and pre-selling the film to a certain territory; What I want for Flowers Of The Night is to work with the right distribution companies for the correct marketing and distributing for the films to audiences worldwide. Frankly, it is not an easy task for a first time feature film director but my team and I are tackling the challenges just fine.
JL: You have to be an irreplaceable force, but also able to put your pride aside and gather better cast and crew than yourself so you can bring your vision to life. Also, treat each cast and crew member with respect.
Moreover, while understanding and attaining the business side of film industry – a must if you want to continue to be a filmmaker, you still you need to retain your true passion and desire. You have to fight for your vision and make the movie you, yourself are willing to pay a full-price to see… A movie that you truly want to watch because no one else is making it yet.
My motus opperande for Sunshine Pictures is to make the best action/martial arts films as I possible can. So maybe I might be able to compel a poor little girl watching pirated movies somewhere in the world and inspire her to be a director someday. That said, everyone else, please pay full price! [laughs]
I am very fortunate to have surrounded myself with better talent than me in both cast and crew to help me bring my vision for Flowers of The Night to life. This project is tremendous for us this year amid development and global distrubution deals, and especially regarding the martial arts talent we’ve been scouting from all over the world as some have already signed on to be attached to the project. It will be an international martial arts film that everyone will enjoy.
JL: First and foremost, Sunshine Pictures is scheduled for production of Flowers of The Night in 2016, before Petals in The Wind (the second script of Flowers of The Night) in 2017.
In addition, there are three fantasy action comedies in development for 2018 , 2019 and 2020, and one of them is called Take Down The Dragon. For actual release dates, we will have the announcement later. It will depend on the marketing team and the negotiation with distributors.
2021 is especially slated for my passion project called 1975. It will not be a martial arts movie, but a hybrid action film encircling elements of love and romance, ghosts and spirits, and war. It’s a mix of different things for the young generation of moviegoers today, and with particular emphasis on love and relationships and how it is so superficially treated these days where marriage lasts either a week or as long as a television season! [laughs] This is a movie I hope will give them a different outlook on what is most important at the end of the day: Your loved ones, and your family.
The script for “1975” is very extensive so we have to save it for 2021 and I don’t have to fight in this film but I do take on a different challenge, and I am definitely looking forward to this as an Oscar-caliber game-changer for Sunshine.
As for all else, I will gladly accept the People’s Choice Awards for Best Action Films and Best Fight Scenes! [laughs]
JL: No, it’s payback time so NO! [laughs] But he will be on set for medic duty. He is good at fixing bones and dislocated joint and martial arts advice and consultation.
JL: If my brother begs me now, maybe I will let him wear a blood squib and play one of the guys who gets shot! [laughs]
JL: Kung Fu Panda 3, and also Deadpool – I like Ryan Reynolds. I also want to see Suicide Squad, London Has Fallen, X-Men: Apocalypse, and last and far from least, Crimson Peak, when it comes out on DVD – I loved in theateds, I wanna watch it again and support Guillermo del Toro. I love his work!
JL: Bún Bò Huế and Hủ Tiếu My Tho. I can never eat them again since I’m vegan now but mannnnn….ugh! So good!!!
I looked up both dishes online after this interview, and needless to say, I look forward to trying these.